U.N. Approves Gaza Cease-Fire Plan
U.N. Security Council calls for truce. Ultimate call rests with Israel, Hamas.
NEW YORK, Jan. 8, 2009 — -- The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution that calls for "an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire" between Israel and Hamas, which have been engaged in deadly battle over Hamas' firing of rockets into Israel for nearly two weeks.
Passing the resolution is no guarantee the fighting in the Gaza Strip will stop. But for the first time since the crisis started, the United States and Arab states that communicate with Hamas have agreed on terms for a cease-fire -- though officially, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abstained from the 14-0 vote.
The resolution called for an immediate truce, an immediate end to Israeli shelling and Hamas rocket fire, the reopening of Gaza crossing points and international guarantees Hamas will not be able to smuggle weapons in tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border.
If the cease-fire is implemented and proves durable, the Security Council calls for an eventual end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. It also calls for international guarantees Hamas will not be able to rearm.
The agreement was passed after a long day of back and forth between Arab, British, French and American foreign ministers, the culmination of three days of talks. Before the vote, British Foreign Minister David Miliband said the diplomats had built "genuine consensus."
Though Rice abstained, she praised the resolution as a "step towards our goal" of a sustainable peace in Gaza.
She said she abstained from voting because the United States first wanted to see the outcome of ongoing mediation efforts in Cairo, Egypt, but she stressed the United States supports the text and goals of the U.N. resolution.
"The work of the Egyptian president, President Mubarak, in the mediation efforts of Egypt, are not just applauded but supported," she said. "I believe it is those efforts that will ultimately help to lead to a durable cease-fire."
A Hamas delegation from Damascus, Syria, has been in Cairo for several days and Israel announced Wednesday night it would send Amos Gilad from its Defense Ministry to talk to Egyptian officials about ways of improving security on its border.
Although Israel and Hamas don't speak directly to each other, Egyptian officials in the past have mediated between the two.
In her statement, Rice spoke out against Hamas and their rocket fire, saying Hamas' "commitment to violence" puts Israelis and Palestinians in danger.
Rice also declared support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his attempts to build a Palestinian state and Israel's right to defend its citizens.
Miliband added that the vote for an "immediate" and "fully respected" cease-fire sends a strong signal "about the determination of the whole international community to build a dignity for the people of Gaza and security for the people of Israel."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been particularly vocal in calling for a cease-fire since Israel's ground invasion of Gaza on Saturday, also was pleased.
"I am heartened and relieved at the adoption by the council today of a resolution to bring an end to this tragic situation," he said. "This will open the way for the U.N. to resume urgently the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies."